England vs India: Rapid, ruthless victory changes the complexion of the series entirely

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

That it was good for England that they wrapped up victory over India with such efficiency is self-explanatory.

To require just 111 balls across 103 minutes to take India’s last eight wickets for 63 sent the game back in the direction it had taken on the first two days. Victory by an innings and 76 runs reflected their utter dominance and changes the complexion of the series entirely.

From the wreckage of Lord’s, England bounced back impressively, as they have tended to do under Joe Root. This was a record-breaking 27th victory as Test captain for Root, although it followed a winless run of seven matches. It is to Root’s credit that the wheels have not tended to come off under his leadership – not even on the 2017/18 Ashes tour.

The quick kill meant their bowlers kept their hold over certain Indian batters – none of whom made a century – while their own batters did the job in one innings. Even if England had managed to chase a target, India’s excellent attack might have underdone some of the strides taken by the new-look top order at Headingley.

Most of all, it kept the workloads of England’s stretched bowling attack down. Root described bowling India out for 78 in a session and a half as “an absolute Brucie [bonus]”.

James Anderson and Ollie Robinson have played every Test in this series, bowling 117 overs apiece. But at Headingley, they were required to bowl just 34 and 36 respectively, and had just one day – the third – of genuine hard graft.

They only had to strap their bowling boots on for six different session. From a conditioning perspective, they will benefit hugely from a bonus day and a half off.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s quite a gruelling schedule, so it’s definitely helpful to wrap it up early,” said Robinson. “We didn’t bowl loads of overs this game so the body is not too bad. All the bowlers are happy we got it wrapped up early today.”

It seemed unthinkable at the start of the series that Anderson would play all five of these Tests in just six weeks. This result makes it a possibility, although it would still not be a massive surprise to see him rested at the Kia Oval this week before returning on his home ground – the one with an End named after him – for the final match of the summer.

At 39, Anderson is a marvel. But his effectiveness does tend to wane in the second innings of Tests these days, as the overs add up. His dismissal of Ajinkya Rahane at Headingley was his first in the second innings since England’s last win, in Chennai in February.

For Anderson not to play, England’s extensive injury crisis needs to ease. Chris Woakes came through the Vitality Blast quarter-final last night, while Mark Wood is bowling again. “I saw him bowling to the guys standing quite deep with the mitt on taking the catches,” said Root. “That’s always a nice sign when a fast bowler has the keeper stood miles back, especially Woody so we will see how that turns out over the next couple of days”. It would be a surprise if neither Wood or Woakes plays at the Oval.

Craig Overton proved an inspired selection ahead of Saqib Mahmood. He took six wickets, caught well at slip and scored runs in his first Test win; he can expect to be retained at the Kia Oval this week.

Sam Curran is in more trouble. His wickets are coming at a cost of 79 runs so far this series, and there was a noticeable dip in the intensity of India’s second innings when he bowled on Thursday.

There could be a further change to the England side. Root said no decision had been made over Jos Buttler’s availability, with the birth of his second child looming. If Buttler sat out, Jonny Bairstow would take the gloves and Ollie Pope would be in line to bat No5.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It seems implausible that R.Ashwin will not come into the India side, for Ishant Sharma or even Ravi Jadeja. September should be a good month for Ashwin, with the final two Tests played at more spin-friendly venues.

Until now, India have tried to beat England at their own game, with four seamers and neither of the spinners who caused such carnage in the series between the teams back in the spring, Ashwin and Axar Patel. But even if England will have three left-handers in their top seven at the Oval, it would still be time to turn to Ashwin. He played a game for Surrey at the ground earlier this year and has not accumulated 417 Test wickets by accident.

Suddenly it is India whose side could change shape and battling to ensure the wheels do not come off. Collapses at the beginning and end of an emphatic defeat will do that.

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